Title: Benny’s Hat
Written by: Juliet Claire Bell
Illustrated by: Dave Gray
Published by: Pomelo Pip
This is a picture book about empathy and surviving despair at the loss of a loved one. A book definitely made for sharing, Benny’s Hat will have you weeping from start to finish.
It is about a young girl called Lizzy (nicknamed Friz) whose brother, Benjamin is terminally ill. It is told from Friz’s point of view. This book deals with a sibling dying in a subtle way, through Friz’s actions and reactions to the deterioration of her brother. It may be delicate, understated storytelling but Juliet Claire Bell’s exceptional ‘show not tell’ skills have a dynamic impact on the reader and their emotions from how Friz gets her nickname to hiding Benny’s hat. The brother and sister exchanges are spot on and despite the tears, brought a little smile to my face.
Juliet Claire Bell’s text and Dave Gray’s illustrations work in perfect unison. The use of pastel shades for the background contrast the orange of Benny’s hat. The layout of the page panels and the vignettes lead you into the bold black page when Friz finds out her brother has died. I particularly liked the use of the trees which start off green and full of leaves and become stark, empty branches to depict Friz’s mood. Then at the end a few green leaves are beginning to grow at the far tips of the branches to symbolise, maybe there can be hope to survive such a traumatic loss.
At the back of the book, there is a note for parent’s by child bereavement counsellor Sue Dale. She provides tips on talking about Benny’s Hat and links to organisations that can help. There are also activities to try that may help children going through bereavement.
I would recommend this book to all parent’s and teachers whether they are helping a child through grief, or not. I strongly advocate it is important to talk about such issues even if it may never be within the child’s experience. If it ever did happen they are more likely to discuss their thoughts and feelings before they get out of hand and understand the way they feel is perfectly normal. I think this book is written sensitively enough to achieve this.
Benny’s Hat is a great way in for discussing and teaching children about compassion and for talking about feelings. If you are a writer, for children or adults alike, it is also the ideal book to study to discover how to evoke emotion in your reader in just a few words.
£2 from each book sold is donated to Edward’s Trust, a children’s bereavement charity, based in Birmingham.
To find out more about Juliet Claire Bell and her books visit her website: www.julietclarebell.com
To find out more about illustrator, Dave Gray, check out: www.iamdavegray.com
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